BLOOMINGTON — The signs began early Saturday that it wasn’t going to be a typical night at Assembly Hall for the No. 1-ranked Indiana basketball team, which had to work hard for an 87-51 victory over Coppin State.
Tim Noble, an Indiana music professor who usually begins the festivities with a booming rendition of the National Anthem, sang into a microphone that didn’t work. It was a musical version of the turnover.
Somehow, things worked out. The near-capacity crowd recognized Noble’s frustration, and midway through the Star Spangled Banner, belted out the song as one. The crescendo built until a Three Stooges moment turned into something special.
Likewise, the Hoosiers just couldn’t get things working early against the overmatched Eagles, who dropped to 1-6 and have only a victory over Cheyney this season.
Indiana (8-0) was 0 for 9 from the floor in the first five minutes with three turnovers. The Hoosiers trailed Fang Mitchell’s team 9-2.
But like the National Anthem, things worked out for the Hoosiers. Indiana’s offense might have been out of whack, but Tom Crean’s players still were able to turn up the defensive heat.
“We’re human … we’re not perfect,” said Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, who finished with 14 points, six assists and six rebounds. “We just picked it up. For us to win, we have to fight through adversity.”
Indiana went on an 11-0 run to end the first half to take a 33-19 lead into intermission. Considering that starting center Cody Zeller took just one shot in the first half, that he missed, and starting guard Jordan Hulls hadn’t hit a shot either, it was a nice result.
Oladipo then took over in the second half. He stole the inbounds pass to start the second half and rammed home a dunk. It took Indiana 5:33 of the first half to get a field goal. It took three seconds to accomplish the same thing in the second half, and the Hoosiers didn’t even start with the ball.
“That was a huge lift,” said Hoosiers guard Remy Abell, who scored 10 points off the bench. “That got us going, and from there, everything started to click.”
The Eagles’ last highlight was a 7-0 run that cut Indiana’s lead to 35-26 in the first three minutes of the second half, but it was all Indiana from there. The Eagles started to turn over the ball under Indiana’s defensive hounding, and those turnovers fed the Hoosiers’ fast break.
Crean said that Oladipo had 20 deflections of Eagles’ passes, a record for Crean’s time at Indiana. Coppin State wilted under that kind of defensive pressure.
Indiana went on a 19-2 run that was capped by 3-balls from forward Jeremy Hollowell and guard Maurice Creek. It was 59-31 and the first half was a distant memory.
Indiana finished with 21 points off turnovers. Recognizing that it wasn’t a banner night for his starters, Crean kept rotating players on the floor, and he ended up with 42 points from his bench.
Zeller, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds, didn’t score a field goal until the 9:28 mark of the second half. It was his teammates’ time to shine on Saturday.
Will Sheehey also had 14 points for Indiana, while Christian Watford had 14 points and six rebounds.
“We won, and that makes us happy,” Oladipo said. “At the same time, we are going to continue to keep growing.”